The paper plate was invented in 1904, followed four decades later by the Styrofoam version. Now, by some estimates, Americans throw out a trillion disposable plates, utensils, and boxes every year. Compostable alternatives aren’t automatically better—forks made out of corn, for example, can actually use more energy than plastic, and often tend to end up in the trash can rather than a compost bin. But what if disposable tableware was edible?
Greek designer Kostantia Manthou has come up with one approach: A simple kit for making a bread-based box that can later break off into portions that double as miniature plates. Manthou created the kit as part of an international exhibition with an unusual prompt—what would someone from her country bring to a picnic?
"Being Greek, the first thing that came to mind was bread," Manthou says. Then, as she thought about the food containers that usually show up at a picnic, she realized she could use bread to help avoid generating piles of trash. "No matter the material, there is always waste," she says. "And frankly, the containers are also usually very ugly."
Manthou’s kit includes a recipe for bread that will turn out strong enough to serve as a box, a ceramic dish for baking the bread, and a special tool that creates dotted lines in the dough so the bread can easily be divided for each person later. It also includes a tablecloth to wrap around the bread to carry it to the picnic.
In theory, she says, a smaller version could be used as an everyday lunchbox—as long as someone was willing to bake bread every day.
For the first production run of the kit, Manthou is looking for someone who can make the ceramic dish by hand. "I would love to make a limited edition in Faenza, Italy, where they traditionally work with terracotta," she says. "Since the bread is a handmade and homemade object, I’d like to have all the parts of the kit made in a similar manner."
Check out the other picnic-inspired designs, from a coalition of 20 international designers called This is Very Dangerous, here.